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General Maintenance

A lot of general maintenance falls to end users. It’s always a good idea to remind them to give their computers the “spa treatment” to help ensure reliability and good performance. This section presents guidelines and hints to help maintain computer equipment in good working order.

Caring for Translucent Plastics

Many Apple products are made with translucent or transparent polycarbonate plastic. This plastic is designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and tough; it should wear quite well.

Yet while translucent plastics are as durable as those used in other computer equipment, scratches and other kinds of minor cosmetic damage may be more visible than in opaque plastics.

When servicing products that use translucent plastics, follow these general guidelines:

  • Do not scratch the plastic with sharp items or rub it with abrasive materials.
  • Do not drop anything heavy on the product or drop the product on the floor.

Cleaning Computer Equipment

There are specific instructions for cleaning the plastics of Apple computers and displays. Search the Knowledge Base for cleaning plastics. You’ll find articles like the following:

  • Knowledge Base document 30889, “How to clean the plastics on your Mac”
  • Knowledge Base document 58036, “iMac: Servicing and Take Apart Issues”
  • Knowledge Base document 86399, “Apple Cinema HD Display: How to Remove Adhesive Residue”
  • Knowledge Base document 304058, “About white MacBooks’ palmrest area”
  • Knowledge Base document 93270, “iSight: About the Mount Adhesive”
  • Knowledge Base document 60446, “How To Clean an LCD Panel”

Maintaining the Display

Since glass is a main component of Apple displays, and since they are designed to minimize weight, it is easy to crack or break an LCD display panel.

Some sources maintain that defective LCD pixels can be restored by rubbing the screen around the defective pixel. This procedure does not work and is very likely to create further problems. In fact, given the great complexity of LCD displays, such a procedure will likely make more pixels defective. For example, rubbing too hard can crush some of the tiny spacers that keep several of the LCD layers apart, causing even more pixel anomalies to appear. Simply put, don’t rub LCD screens. If you have to clean an LCD screen surface, be sure to do so carefully and only with gentle pressure.

To maintain a display, follow these basic procedures:

  • Turn off the display or turn down the brightness whenever the display is turned on but not being used; otherwise, the image on the screen could “burn in” and damage the screen.
  • Use the Energy Saver pane of System Preferences to set the display to go to sleep after a specified period of inactivity. Screen Effects (in System Preferences) or a third-party screen saver program is another option. However screen savers aren’t as effective at maintaining the LCD. (Refer to Knowledge Base document 10639, “Screen Savers: Using With Liquid Crystal Displays.” Also, search the Knowledge Base for screen saver for more information.)
  • Make sure the vents on the computer and display are clear and unobstructed.
  • Don’t let liquid get on or into the display.

If you are trying to eliminate a persistent image from an LCD screen, refer to Knowledge Base document 88343, “Avoiding image persistence on Apple LCD displays.”

Backing Up Files

Of course no one ever expects to lose data, whether for technical or other reasons. This is precisely why you should make backing up a standard part of any workflow. Backing up files helps you prevent the loss of important documents, applications, and other software.

You can back up your files using a dedicated application, such as Retrospect (, that automatically archives the contents of your hard disk (or any portion you specify). Alternatively you can back up important documents every day by copying the files to another disk, a volume on a network, an external hard disk, or a writeable optical disc.

There are some special things you should consider when backing up an iPod, or more accurately, an iTunes library.

With iTunes 7 you can easily back up the entire iTunes library, including ratings and play count. You can also restore the entire library using the disc(s) you created.

To perform a library backup, follow these steps:

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Choose File > Back up to disc.

    You are presented with a window with three options:

    Select “Back up entire iTunes library and playlists” or “Back up only iTunes Store purchases.” With either option, you can choose to back up only those items added or changed since the last backup.

    iTunes begins processing the library and determines which items to back up. The size of the iTunes library determines the length of time this step takes. The larger the library, the longer it will take.

    The processing step completes, and iTunes begins burning the backup to disc. If your backup is too large for a single disc, a dialog appears letting you know the backup will or will not fit on one disc:

  3. Insert a blank CD or DVD into your computer’s optical drive.

    A dialog notifies you when your library backup is complete.

Proper Battery Disposal

Whenever you replace a battery—whether from inside a Macintosh computer or a common flashlight—it is important that you dispose of the old batteries appropriately, according to local hazardous waste ordinances. For current instructions, search for battery disposal in the Knowledge Base. Also refer to Knowledge Base document 50079, “Battery Handling.”

Checking for Viruses

A computer virus is a program, usually hidden within another (seemingly innocuous) program, that produces copies of itself to insert into other programs and often performs malicious actions such as destroying data.

Use an antivirus program regularly to check for and delete viruses on the hard disk, especially if you download files from the Internet or share files with others. Choose an antivirus program that alerts you when an email attachment, shared file, or Internet download is infected.

Check periodically for updates to your antivirus program to ensure that the program scans for the latest known viruses. Also search the Knowledge Base for antivirus. You’ll find documents such as these:

  • Knowledge Base document 4454, “Mac OS: Antivirus Utilities”
  • Knowledge Base document 11907, “Macintosh: Lists of viruses”

Optimizing the Hard Disk

As you may know, smaller hard disks have a habit of becoming full, and the operating system deals with this by writing bits and pieces of files wherever it can find free space. Although they are fully written, the files are logically fragmented over the surface of the disk. Because the drive’s magnetic head has to move all over the place to read or write fragmented files, performance suffers.

Disk optimization is a process in which the physical locations of files on a volume are streamlined. Files and metadata are rearranged to improve data access times and minimize time moving a hard drive’s head.

Fortunately all of this has changed in recent years. Multigigabyte drives are common and inexpensive, so the lack of storage space that led to fragmentation rarely occurs. Furthermore, Mac OS X contains intelligent routines that, in essence, optimize the hard disk during normal use.

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